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Jump to Identifying Consumer (Popular), Scholarly, and Peer-Reviewed Resources

People can place information onto the Web whether or not they know what they are talking about.  Because of this, the information you find on the Web may not be correct.  You can determine if you have found accurate, reliable information if you evaluate it according to the criteria below.  For practice, try to answer the questions about each example below.  More detailed information about evaluating Web resources is available at http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html.

When reviewing a resource, consider the following . . .

Authority / Credibility

The information should be from a knowledgeable, trained, and experienced expert you can believe and trust.


Credible:         Health Insurance Market Reforms    http://www.urban.org/publications/1000820.html

Not Credible:  Dihydrogen Monoxide   http://www.dhmo.org/.   This site is a parody and completely bogus!  Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is water, H20.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the author clearly identified?
  • Are the author's credentials indicated?
  • Is the author writing on a topic within his/her expertise?
  • Has the author published other material on this topic?
  • Are the author's professional affiliations apparent?
  • Can the author be contacted?
  • Is this the official site of an organization or association?
  • Is it clear who maintains and updates the site and its contents?

Accuracy / Content

The information should be free of typographic, grammatical, and spelling errors.  It should be factual, logically arranged, and easy to read and follow.  Sources of information should be stated.


Accurate:        The Titanic Casualty Figures    http://www.anesi.com/titanic.htm

Not Accurate: Feline Reactions to Bearded Men     http://www.sree.net/stories/feline.html. This is another completely bogus site.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the purpose of the site clear?
  • Is the site free from errors?
  • Is the the title of the site descriptive of the content?
  • Is there an "About This Site" link?
  • Is the material supported by evidence?

Timeliness / Currency

You should be able to easily find the dates on which the information was created, first placed on the Web, and most recently updated.  The information should not be obsolete.


Current:           Statistical Abstract of the U.S.   http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/

Not Current:    Search Engine Sizes  http://searchengineshowdown.com/statistics/size.shtml

Ask yourself:

  • Is the date the site was created given?
  • Is the site updated regularly?
  • Are changes/updates easily identified?
  • Is there a copyright statement?

Bias / Objectivity

The information should be impartial and not attempt to promote an agenda.  Many advertisements are biased.


Biased:         RJReynolds Tobacco Co. Values    http://www.rjrt.com/prinbeliefs.aspx

Not Biased:  American Lung Association    http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/

Ask yourself:

  • Are there any obvious omissions in the information?
  • Can the material be independently verified?
  • Is the material reasonably balanced?
  • Is the information presented factual, rather than opinion?
  • Is the content objective/logical?
  • Is advertising distinguishable from the content?


The information should suit your needs and adequately cover the subject.  You should be able to tell if the Web site is complete or still under construction.


Appropriate for College:         Bioterrorism Information    http://www.bt.cdc.gov/bioterrorism/

Not Appropriate for College: The Dr. King Timeline Page

Ask yourself:

  • Is the date the site was created given?
  • Is the site updated regularly?
  • Are changes/updates easily identified?
  • Is there a copyright statement?

Checklist for Evaluating Information

Identifying Consumer (Popular), Scholarly, and Peer-Reviewed Resources

Consumer vs. Scholarly Resources

  • Advertisements: Consumer publications usually contain more.
  • Complexity of language:The language in journals pertains to a particular subject and is typically more complex than the language in consumer publications. The latter is usually normal, everyday language.
  • Audience (the intended readers):Popular publications are aimed at the general public; journals are aimed at subject specialists.
  • Circulation (number of subscribers):Consumer publications generally have more subscribers.
  • Article structure: Scholarly articles typically have sections such as abstract, introduction, literature review, methods, results, conclusions, suggestions for further research, and bibliography.  Consumer articles typically lack these sections.
  • Citations: Scholarly resources have a bibliography at the end of the articles. Consumer publications typically lack these.

Scholarly vs. Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

  • Scholarly Journal Articles: A publication is considered to be scholarly if it is authored by academics for a target audience that is mainly academic, the printed format isn't usually a glossy magazine, and it is published by a recognized society with academic goals and missions.
  • Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles: A publication is considered to be peer-reviewed if its articles go through an official editorial process that involves review and approval by the author's peers (people who are experts in the same subject area).  Most (but not all) scholarly publications are peer reviewed.

Getting research assistance . . .

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